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Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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Cats & Dogs Exhibit and Apollo 11: First Steps In IMAX, at Science World

Starting from September 22nd to January 5th Science World is giving you a real life look at the secret lives of pets, though you cats and dogs. Their newest exhibition: “Cats & Dogs” is the first, large-scale exhibition dedicated to these animals. It reviews everything we know scientifically, sociologically and culturally about both canines and felines, and makes it palate-able and easy to digest for even the littlest of learners.

 

As taken from the press release, “The science of animal behaviour has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, overturning a number of preconceived ideas about cats and dogs regarding how they demonstrate their skills, awareness and intelligence every day.” This interactive exhibit gives you a look into their psyche, while getting you moving. You can test your agility against dogs with a jumping and running/dodging challenge. Or learn how to better identify either species with a “guess who” style game. And you can even quiz one another on your learned animal trivia with a board game. You will also “learn about peculiar and distinct traits found in a huge variety of dog breeds from the tiniest Chihuahuas to the tallest Great Danes, and cats ranging from the lush, furry Persians to the sleek, hairless Sphynx”.

Fun for the whole family and a topic that is relatable to so many of us who either own a cat or a dog.

And starting November 23rd, visitors to Science World can also take in their newest IMAX experience: “Apollo 11: First Steps Edition”. This is special giant-screen version of the critically acclaimed, theatrical documentary Apollo 11, but is not the full-length feature.

It recalls the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin through first person accounts from the astronauts, as well as all the men and women stationed at NASA. Engineers, scientists, and mechanics working tirelessly for the success of the mission, and the safe return of their spacemen. The IMAX film contains never before seen, actual footage of the space mission, that saw Americans being the first men on the moon. The very one where they declared so memorably, “this is one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind”.

The documentary’s giant screen release is well timed to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of NASA’s first lunar landing, and features the newly discovered 70mm footage and audio recordings from NASA and the National Archives. It allows audiences to experience one of humanity’s greatest achievements, over 50 years ago, in a more intimate and revealing way.

Having not read up on or watched much of NASA’s historic lunar landing, this offered me the best way to get all caught up. And in my eyes, it also was helpful in debunking the conspiracy that all the above was just a hoax.

For more on either of this season’s newest attractions, visit Science World’s website for ticket sales and additional details. https://www.scienceworld.ca/

A Royal Romance, Vancouver Theatre Sports League

The weather is turning, the lights are out, and Christmas is right around the corner. So leave it to the “Vancouver Theatre Sports League” to regale you with yule-time spirit and laughter in their newest improv series, “Merry Kissmas: A Royal Romance”!

Available from November 20th to December 24th, we attended their first weekend release on a Saturday night. I have attended other improv shows here before, but never on a weekend. And I must say, the day of the week certainly does make a different to your experience. The energy of a Saturday night changed the dynamic of the show. It was a sold out performance, so already there was more energy to feed off of, more suggestions were being shouted out, and a greater number of laughs came after each punch line. Although what stayed the same, was the very little number of hands being raised to come up on stage to participate in person.

It is also worth nothing that in house bar, the “Neil Macrae Barl was busy. Show goers arrived early and partook in a couple of drinks before the doors to the theatre opened. Wine was being poured into tumblers, beers were being cracked open, and their popcorn machine had the room smelling of melted butter. With bottles in buckets at tables and glasses in the hands of the audience, everyone was here for a rowdy good time.

A couple more than others, including one audience member that volunteered to help out with a skit, only to be not sober enough to understand what was expected of him. He was suppose to make sound effects into a microphone, but kept adding commentary over what the actors were trying to say. From there any volunteers were checked for sobriety. As a watcher, it was great to be able to witness the improv players on stage being able to take everything this drunk man was throwing at them, and to incorporate it into their performance with a laugh. It was disruptive for them and the rest of the audience, but we all took it on the chin and was able to joke about it subsequently. Naturally any show you attend won’t be exactly like this, that is the beauty of improv. Improv gives you the ability to watch as many of the same shows as you like, and for each one to be different, depending on the performers and suggestions given out that day.

As for the rest of the performance, the first half of the show featured improv games with wintery themes. The actors acted out the same scene as it took place in different countries. They made up dances based on winter time activities. And gave up control of their body as an audience member moved them about the stage like a living doll.

After the intermission and more wine, came the second half of the show was inspired by Hallmark Christmas movies. Theses movies are cliché and cheesy, but feel good with plenty of love and happily ever afters. Here, one audience member joined a multi scene story that played out a proposal and royal wedding before our eyes.

Overall, this is another great production by “Vancouver Theatre Sports League”, and a great way to shake off those winter blues. Improv is great for some laughs, or as a date night option, and with its wintery themes, a great way to get into the holiday spirit. For ticket information, visit their website listed below.

VANCOUVER THEATRE SPORTS
Neil Macrae Bar & Lounge
1502 Duranleau Street, Granville Island
vtsl.com

Marcello’s Pizza Roulette

Today we were here as a group, visiting the Commercial Drive staple, “Marcellos Ristorante”, better known for their pizza oven that resembles a stone face. A cozy space with dim lighting, a lively atmosphere, and a light fixture made from reused liquor bottles.

We were here for their newest pizza feature, “Pizza Roulette. For the entire month of November diners have the ability to order a pizza that eats more like a game. It is served on a spinning platter, and one by one your dinner party spins the wheel and which ever slice it lands on, you have to eat it. The goal is to avoid the super spicy slice that has a ghost pepper hidden on it. A pepper so spicy that your order comes with liabilities waivers and a glass of milk for the after math.

The roulette pizza is typically the “capriccio” pizza, but one of our table mates couldn’t have pork meat. So we decided to make our challenge vegetarian, thus allowing everyone to participate. We each got our slice and to everyone’s dismay, no one got any ghost pepper. A few of us felt a tingle of heat from some chilli oil, but other than that there were no tears, and no pain.

We were disappointed by the outcome, although the “vegetariana pizza” was delicious, so it wasn’t a total waste. There was plenty of flavour and textures with their thick tomato sauce, gooey globs of uneven melted mozzarella, chunks of artichokes, strips of green pepper, and plenty of mushrooms, and onion to go around.

Since we were here, we then decided to enjoy a full meal with our “Roulette Pizza”. We ordered the “Meal share pizza” to support those in need. For every medium “Marcellos” pizza ordered the restaurant will donate a simple and healthy meal to a youth in need. And since you are here anyways, why not order a pizza that passes it on, and does good for someone else?

It starts with the same light pizza base with airy and chewy crust that all their pizzas do. And to it they add their herbed tomato sauce, a healthy amount of mozzarella cheese, topped with anchovies, black olives, capers, and onion. Each bite was different thanks to the inconsistent chunks of whole olives mashed, and the haphazard scattering of the salty fish and punchy capers. Interesting, but my favourite flavour profile.

I much rather their gnocchi. Their handmade traditional potato and egg dumplings are available in 4 different sauces, our table got 3 of them. The “Al basilico e pancetta” has their hand made gnocchi sautéed in a basil sauce, and topped with crispy bacon. The first bite was the best, but the one toned flavour did grow tiresome. It is best to share this one, instead of dedicating yourself to the whole bowl. The bacon did help to change the taste, but it also added saltiness and greasiness to the dish. The latter was visible in the puddle of yellow oil that pooled at the bottom of the plate. I would have liked gently blistered cherry tomatoes here, something fresh and bright to lighten up the serving.

Out of all their gnocchi we tried, I preferred the “Pasticciati Gnocchi”. Here, their in house made gnocchi is sautéed in a cream and meat sauce. The result, a classic pasta flavour that comforts with familiar flavours. The only thing I would have liked was some crispy garlic bread to rejuvenate the plate in between bites; which also serves as a base to sop up and smear on all that delicious tangy and slightly sweet pasta sauce.

The “Ai quattro formaggi” gnocchi was the most visually appealing. Double cooked, these hand made gnocchi, was coated thick in a 4 cheese blend, then broiled to perfection for a crispy crust and a stringy cheese sensation. I expected something similar to Mac and cheese in taste, but with a gooier chew that melts under the pressure of your tongue. What we got was a very distinct cheese blend, that was blue cheese forward.

Everything was heavy so far, so the “Caesar salad” with its fresh romaine lettuce was a nice side. And at this size, it was more than enough to share between our table, family style. Although truth be told, with the generous amount of Caesar dressing that coated each leaf, this was far from refreshing.

But the best in helping to clean our palate was the tzatziki sauce that came as a dip to our calamari. “Calamari alla griglia”, grilled squid with peppers and kalamata black olive. What we thought was an appetizer sized side was once again large enough to share amongst the table. Perfectly crispy rings with a great chew.

I also liked the “Tagliatelle frutti di mare” which was homemade noodle and a mix of seafood in a light creamy tomato sauce. Clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid; all covered in a tangy sauce with a pronounced fishy flavour.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Despite the disappointment of the Pizza Roulette, “Marcello’s” is still a great to go to for pizza and pasta. They are a staple in the area for a reason. Don’t deny your cravings.

MARCELLOS
1404 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X9
(604) 215-7760
marcellopizzeria.com

Aurora Winter Festival at the PNE

From now to January 5th, 2020 “Aurora”, the winter festival is back for its second year in Vancouver. Although this time they are bigger and better with a brand new location at PNE’s fair grounds. The increase in square foot means additional room for more light displays, event spacing, food stalls, and marketplace vendors.

My trick with these sort of activities is to come early, blitz through everything, take all your people-free photo, then go through it all again after, to better take things in, the second time around. I also suggest bringing a friend to help you take those completely necessary photos with your favourite light feature. The following is what you can expect, but naturally there is nothing like exploring it in person.

With so much to see and do, I highly suggest locating the posted event map, and taking a photo of it to reference later. You definitely don’t want to miss any of it, each corner is a difference feature.

The most iconic of them is actually the gateway into “Aurora”, a giant glacial iceberg that you walk under.

And a short distance away was their giant Christmas tree, that you too can walk under.

To your right is the souvenir shop. I highly recommend stopping by here first before venturing any further, they have a great selection of accessories that light up. These make fun props and unique souvenirs to mark your time at “Aurora”. LED swords, wands, and thunder sticks. And to keep you dry and warm (as most of this is outdoors), they have umbrellas, toques and gloves for sale. I grabbed the latter, which too was lit with LEDs. Each finger tip got a dedicated bulb and with a push of a button you could switch it between colours and strobing or flashing patterns.

To your left is their carnival section with all ages rides like a miniature coaster, spinning strawberries, and the Ferris wheel crowning it all. Here, you can also play games to win prizes.

The rest of the property is for your to explore, to wherever your eyes take you next. If you are looking to capture a glimpse of Santa, be sure to check the times listed at the entrance of his inflated snow dome. He arrives and tells the kids a story with the help of his elf.

There is also a dome for puzzles and colouring, a quite space to take a seat with your young family. For something a bit more active little hands can turn to a winter wonderland take on tic tac toe and checkers, and a black lit neon ring toss using the antlers of wooden reindeers.

Nearby you can test your dexterity with a sling shot game. Aiming and tossing plastic balls towards inflated snowmen.

There is a candy cane lane with giant lollipops, macrons that you can sit on, and human-sized cupcakes. The sugary path of pink leads you to a giant gingerbread house at the end.

All the staff are dressed like elven folk bundled up warm in cloaks, outfitted with pointed ears. They guide the way and help you take photos, should you ask. They also have a rotation of characters ready for photo ops. Like the friendly yeti and the beautiful snow queen. When she is not in, you can test out her throne in her ice castle.

Walk along wooded paths discovering moments created in LEDs. Floral life and wild life brightening up the night.

The feature that will capture everyone’s attention is the tunnel of lights, a colour changing techno-coloured experience in rainbow.

There is also a yellow glowing tunnel with giant beers and the reindeers towing Santa’s sleigh around it.

By the gnome village is a talking tree. You can take a seat as he recalls the “Night Before Christmas”.

You can take a wild ride on their giant slide. Which comes with a bird’s eye view of the event.

Or rent some skates and take a spin around their rink. For those who are less confident on blades, you can loan one of their plastic animals with handles, to better support yourself.

And if get hungry there are a handful of food trucks to choose from. Order poutine, sandwiches, perogies, or stir fry; and enjoy it in their communal covered area.

But if you are looking for somewhere warmer to eat dinner at, check out the drinking hall with plenty of benches, and the occasional live band performing holiday tunes on stage.

And there are plenty of vendors offering hot beverage and/or spiked drinks. Mulled wine and hot chocolate are great ways to keep warm. We indulged in their feature “disco” cocktail, served in a blinking blue globe, this blue punch is available with or without alcohol. Best enjoyed on their light up dance floor.

If you are looking to check a few names off your Christmas shopping list? “Aurora” also had a market place with local, artisan, goods for sale.

Given how much time you can spend wandering the park and revisiting your favourite moments, you can come back a visit multiple times before the end of the season. “Aurora Winter Festival” runs from November 22nd to January 5th. For tickets and hours of operation visit their website using the link below.

Aurora Winter Festival

Cornucopia Whistler at the Pan Pacific Mountainside

Cornucopia is Whistler’s annual fall festival of food and drink. Two weeks of tastings, culinary demonstrations, wine seminars, chef luncheons, winemaker dinners, and parties. All off which give you the opportunity to explore and enjoy the offerings of BC and Whistler in a whole new way. This November 7th to the 17th marked its 23rd year, and my first experiencing it in person.

My girl friend and I came down for the first weekend, tying the occasion to her birthday celebration! What better way to commemorate a birth than with three days of wine fuelled adventures. A staycation that involves a two hour drive to this mountain town; with no snow and warming sun, this was the perfect weekend getaway.

Our accommodations would be at “Pan Pacific Mountainside”, a resort under the shadow of Blackcomb Mountain. Each room is a suite with full kitchen, living room, washroom, and patio. With the basic suites you don’t have a separate bedroom. You either use the Murphy bed that drops down from the cabinet, or pull a bed out from under the sofa. Space saving, but not as comfortable as having a proper bed, in a separate room. I highly recommend paying the $75 additional to upgrade.

All hotel guests have access to the hotel’s amenities. A gym and sauna indoors, and a full length heated pool and two hot tubs outside. We did find ourselves slipping into our swim suits and robes, and enjoy some time in their pools.

For food, the hotel is home to Irish sports bar “Dubh Linn Gate”. Just be warned, last call for food is 9pm; and that includes ordering room service, as everything comes from the pub’s kitchen.

We did enjoy the space with a couple of drinks one night. Although found it a much difference atmosphere later in to the evening. To our surprise the bar became a club with people standing and drinking, or dancing to the loud music. We would leave that scene, but come back for food the next day.

Seeing a large tray of nachos past by us, I wanted the same thing. Available in 2 sizes the smaller of the two is plenty for two to share. Tri-coloured crunchy nacho chips, melted cheese, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole at an extra cost.

And for those who are in town to ski or board, “Pan Pacific Mountainside” boasts all the equipment to make it possible. With retail sports stores to shop from or the ability to rent for the day.

Now, back to “Cornucopia”. In total we attended 5 events, each one a great example of the variety of offerings available for attendees to partake in. A multi-course dinner, a dip in healing waters with sparkling wine, a wine seminar on value, a cooking demonstrating, and a large scale wine tasting.

First it was a dinner at “Four Season Whistler’s” “Side Cut” restaurant. They have teamed up with the chefs of the “Four Seasons” in Vancouver to bring diners a 5 course meal, paired with “Fort Berens” wine. For the full story of our “Corridor” dinner with “Yew + Sidecut”, as well as a few features of the property, visit in the link below.

“The Corridor” with Yew + Sidecut, Cornucopia 2019

 

We then grabbed a cab to our next event of the night: “Scandinave Spa’s “Bubble bath”. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be drinking bubbles, when surrounded by bubbles. I know you aren’t suppose to go into the water 15 minutes after you have eaten, but our next stop had us snacking on canapés and sipping on “Haywire’s” bubbles before and after our soak. For the full review of this luxury spa turned lounge with live music, visit the link below.

Scandinave Spa Bubble Bath, Cornucopia 2019

 

The next morning we stopped for a healthy brunch at Pangea Pod Hotel’s “living room” and cafe. Here, we had green juice smoothies, and vegetables to balance out the night before and the day to come.

The “CrabApple Hits Smoothie” is kale, cucumber, apple, strawberry, pineapple, apple juice, and lemon juice. A great way to feel good about what you are drinking, and have it taste good.

To eat, my guest had their “Avocado Toast”. She expected it to be done like how she does it, “with a whole avocado”. This rendition was a a thin smear of mashed avocado, over crusty sourdough bread, topped with feta, coriander, red chilli and lime. It was a lot more flavourful than any avocado toast I have ever had. I just wished there was more avocado to really appreciate the creaminess of the fruit.

I had the “Vegetable broken eggs”. This was a skillet of roasted baby potatoes, eggplant, and zucchini; topped with a couple of eggs seasoned with mozzarella cheese, green onion, and truffle oil. Another hearty, tasty dish that didn’t feel like.

This was enough “base” to get us through our 12 glass wine tasting at the Whistler convention centre. I was excited to attend the “Top Value Wine” seminar and put what I learn from it to practice, in the future. I often struggle with what bottle to pick at my local liquor store, so was appreciative that this class would highlight a few good ones. For the detailed list of 12 value wines to get under $20, check out the link below.

Top Value Wines Seminar, Cornucopia 2019

 

From here we had a quick lunch at “Bar Oso”. A couple of cocktails and two smaller plates that we shared.

The “Harvest Sour” features smoked pumpkin rum, lemon, carrot, maple syrup, and egg white. And the “Trophy Wife” came with pink peppercorn infused vodka, apricot, egg white, citrus, and pink peppercorn dust sprinkled overtop top. Plus a Spanish gin and tonic.

With it we grazed on half an order of their assorted cheese board. It was nice to be able to have the option of a smaller serving size. The cheese is on rotation and this board featured manchego in 3 and 12 months old, san simon, drunken goat, and valdeon blue.

For something heartier we turned to their wild smoke salmon sandwich with fresh salmon, boiled eggs and capers, all on house made bread. I would be more than happy to have this for breakfast any day.

Next was a “Cornucopia” cooking class hosted by the Executive Chef of “Tyax Resort”. He would walk us through cooking a three course menu that was inspired by the land and sea. And each round was paired with the perfect “Fort Berens” wine. For some great cooking tips and the recap of our tasty trio, visit the link below.

Culinary Stage: Tyax Land and Sea, Cornucopia 2019

 

Then it was time to head back to our hotel, to freshen up for the evening’s main event. A gala-style tasting that had you exploring the convention centre, table to table tasting fine wine and nibbling on savoury bites. For some of the highlights to this not to be missed event, visit the link below.

Having drank our fill we decided to then stop and eat something more solid at the “Harajuku” Japanese tapas place next door.

The chicken karaage were a fried to order dark meat served with a garlic mayo. The dip helped to balance out the grease.

The “Popcorn calamari” was battered and salted with seaweed, and served with a sweet and sour dressing. I would have preferred the garlic mayo dip with the fried squid rings, and the salty dressing here for the chicken above.

And on a lighter note we had the “Rock n roll” sushi. A refreshing veggie roll with yam tempura, avocado, cucumber, carrots, beets, shiitake, inari, and a kabayaki sauce. It had a great mix of textures and was exactly what my body was craving.

Then to round out the night we a couple of drinks with some friends in town, before turning it in; one last sleep in our “Pan Pacific suite”.

The next morning it was packing up after ourselves and checking out. But first one last glass of breakfast bubbles paired with microwaved left overs, as we watched the Food Network.

We would spent the first half of Sunday exploring Whistler. And it started with brunch at “Basalt”. It was 11am, but not too early to enjoy their fall feature, two glasses of wine and a cheese fondue for two. At $59 it sounded like a good deal.

We each choose a glass between the house red or white, and sipped as we dipped. I just wished there was more than just the toasted chunks of baguette to dip into the blend of emmental, gruyere, and aged cheddar. The flavour became monotonous. We did have the option to add vegetables for $10, however a small side of potato, carrot, and Brussel sprouts seemed steep. I wanted fresh fruit, but according to our server, patrons are unable to order anything that isn’t on the menu. So we are as much as we could stomach and left.

Next we visited Whistler’s historic museum by donation. It was a self guided tour that allowed you to explore the history of Whistler through its wildlife and experiences. Here you can “Ride” in one of the first gondolas, or reminisce about the time we hosted the Olympics by playing dress up.

The library is next door, so we took a peak inside, after. Plenty of reading space and board games for those who want something more active to do.

Hot tip for art lovers, a handful of hotels have micro art galleries located at their lobbies. Anyone is welcomed in to take a look around. I personally prefer the modern art ones.

 

And the village stroll is always pleasant walk. There are plenty of unique stores to meander into, like the one selling semi precious stones and crystals. And “Castros Cuban Cigar Store” that will help you trim any cigar you purchase.

And of course, the most popular landmark, the Olympic Rings are available for a photo op anytime day or lit up at night. There is a playground for kids and a gazebo for catching shade or rain cover under.

In short Whistler is always a great for a quick getaway and even more fun when it coincides with “Cornucopia”. To start planning for next year’s event, visit their website below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the more visual recap of our weekend at “Cornucopia”, check out my latest drinking Vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Cellar Door Grand Tasting, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend we were up in Whistler, which is consistently ranked amongst the world’s top golf, mountain bike, and ski resorts. Although this fall we were not on the slopes, but instead, around tables trying the fabulous culinary offerings of this mountain town. Every November, Whistler hosts Cornucopia: Whistler’s Celebration of food + drink. The event is a unique opportunity to experience the wealth of Whistler’s fine dining establishments, as well as mix with acclaimed chefs, sommeliers, distillers, brewers, and restaurateurs visiting just for the festival.

But if you aren’t able to visit for a weekend or sign up for numerous events, the one(s) you have to attend is a signature tasting. The convention centre hall, (where it is held), is set up with multiple tables, each dedicated to a wine or food vendor. You roam the space, chatting up distributors and chefs, strolling amongst the aisles, at your leisure. Because where else can you try several of the wines participating in various “Cornucopia” events across two weeks, all gathered together for one night?

There are several such grand tastings, but the “Cellar Door”, (which is the one we attended), promised fine wines and champagnes, with the uncorking of top-shelf bottles ($25 and up). “With glass in-hand, step inside to discover a superb range of red, white and sparkling wines, and meet the producers and winemakers who create them. Complement your tastings with sweet and savoury bites by Sea to Sky restaurants and guest chefs.”

Participating wineries included:
BC Wine Studio
Black Hills Estate
Black Sage Vineyard
Blasted Church
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
C.C. Jentsch Cellars
Clos du Soleil
Covert Farms Family Estate
Crescent Hill Winery
Crowsnest Vineyards
Culmina Family Estate Winery
Da Silva Vineyards & Winery
Dark Horse Vineyard
Delegat Canada
Empson Wines
Ex Nihilo Vineyard
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery
Fort Berens Estate Winery
Hope Family Wines
Indigenous World Winery
Inniskillin
Italian Wine Importer
Kismet Estate Winery
Lang Vineyards
Laughing Stock Vineyards
Mark Anthony Wines & Spirits
Massey Wines and Spirits Ltd
Moon Curser Vineyard
Okanagan Villa Vineyards
Phantom Creek Estates
Shannon Ridge
Stags Hollow
Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Sunrock Vineyards
TIME Winery
Whistler Tree Wines

The following will be a highlight reel of the event, with a few notables. Like, meeting the Riedel team. I am a firm believer that glassware makes a difference and was proved it here with their decanter and magnum glasses.

For food there was a table of hams and sausages. And a collection of nibbles that ranged from hot squash soup to pork loin and mashed potato. There was Thai salad and sautéed vegetables, tomato bruschetta, and good old fashion hard cheese and sweet apple to graze on.

In short, these so much to see in do in 3 hours, you definitely get your money’s worth at this event. If you can only attend one, this is that one. To have it to look forward to next year, visit the Cornucopia website for more details.

For the epicurious, Cornucopia is food + drink unleashed

 

For the more animated and detailed recap of this event, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Culinary Stage: Tyax Land and Sea, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend we were at our very first “Cornucopia”, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival, which includes a variety of events to partake in. In order to get the most out of our experience we signed up for a little of everything, like a live cooking class where you get to eat the fruits of your chef/instructor’s labour. This is that recap.

Attendees were gathered at the grand foyer of the Whistler’s Conference Centre. You choose yours seat between several tables clustered around the “Sub Zero & Wolf Culinary Stage”. It was a formal sit down event, which included the visibility of two televised screens. They were helpful in allowing you to follow along with this instructional tasting.

Our instructor was Daniel Crane, Executive Chef at “Tyax Lodge”, and this would be his first foray in teaching on a public stage, in front of a live audience. In order to see him in action, check out my latest drinking vlog, where I recapped this, and a few of the other events I participated in.

 

Chef Daniel used the following 3 courses to highlight his background. He prides himself on working with farmers, sourcing his ingredients from them as much as possible. And this was well reflected in the meal to come, 3 courses inspired by flavours from the land and sea.

As a workshop, it was great to be able to take in his tips and trips. And/or sit back and simply watch things unfold like a cooking show; with the added pleasure of eating it after. I personally really enjoy seeing how my food is put together, to be able to appreciate the workmanship of each dish so much more.

And as he prepared our multi-course meal, we would enjoy wine from “Fort Berens Estate Winery” in Lillooet, BC. Their handcrafted wines reflect the unique qualities of Lillooet’s terroir; and has won them several regional, national, and international awards. The winery is located two hours north, over the coast mountains. This is a small valley, the same size of Burgundy, France. There, it is very dry and arid, with very little snow and rain. The land’s pour soil is great for grapes, the energy to grow them all goes to the fruit and not its leaves.

Our first “Fort Berens” wine was their 2018 Chardonnay, a wine that won in the category of top white at “Cornucopia 2019”

Our second glass was their 2016 Pinot noir made from five different types of grapes, clones of varietals originating from France to California. The result, an deep red with earthy layers and the fruity notes of raspberry.

The last glass was the “Fort Berens’ Late Harvest Muscat”. A sweet wine, that paralleled our dessert to come. Made with a late harvest grape it has exotic notes of ginger, lemon grass, and apricot. A nice cool wine with light acidic tones.

As for the food that went with each, the following will be a notable recap of the demonstration, followed by my honest review of the food. I will not be offering step by step instructions on how to replicate each dish, instead, you will have to attend next year’s “Cornucopia” yourself.

Our first course was an “Albacore Tuna Tataki”. Seared rare tuna served with a cherry tomato ratatouille, warm olives and caper berries. Seasoned with chilli, olive oil, a parmesan crisp, and saffron aioli.

We learned that you start by making sure the pan is nice and hot, so that the albacore tuna cooks up with a lovely crust. You also want to lay the fish away from you, to avoid the oil from splashing on to you. You then season your tuna with olive oil paprika, salt and pepper. Your don’t want to sear it for too long, though do want to get all four sides, and allow the fish to sit.

Next you prepare the ratatouille which involves adding together your vegetables and finishing it with parsley and salt.

For your aioli you blend your mayonnaise in a blender at a lower setting. You then slowly add in oil and turn up the speed: “really high, really quick, and then kill it”. If you blend it too slowly it comes out too thin. You know you have done it right when your finished product is a nice yellow colour.

We then got an inside look at the intricacies of plating. Slicing the tuna thin, dotting your plate with mayonnaise, lining your ratatouille on the side, and finishing the plate off with some deep fried rice paper for added crispiness.

The result, a tasty and light start. Fresh and tangy with tomato, and familiar with the tuna and creamy mayo combination. The white wine’s citrus notes really complimented the seafood here.

The second course was “Pan Seared Brome Lake Duck”, served with a parmesan and sage gnocchi, cherry jus, and quark cheese mousse.

Chef Daniel first began with the gnocchi. He and his team had already pre-boiled the potatoes needed for 35 minutes, just so that they are soft enough to pierce with knife. Once they are peeled, they are pressed down to small bits using a potato ricer, (A new and soothing sight for me). The collection of potato granules are the mixed together with one egg, and one and a half cups of flour, then repeatedly folded in to build gluten. The dough is then rolled into a line a cut down to small pieces. It is then ready to be boiled in water for 1-2 minutes. When they start to float, you remove then from the water. And once they cool down you can sauté it with the asparagus.

Making the chutney involved sautéing chopped red onion, gooseberries, a little bit of sugar, and red wine vinegar. Then letting it cook down with all its liquids cooked off.

The duck breast was prepared in a sous vide bag, seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then seared and plated with its demi glaze and cherries, alongside the chutney and gnocchi.

The meaty piece of duck was perfection, with all its sides balancing out the plate. Fresh and crispy asparagus, sweet and sour chutney, and a rich caramelization from the cooked cherries.

Our third and final course was a “Berries and Cream” dessert, made with fresh berries, a coconut foam, cardamom crumble, and chamomile syrup.

First came the making of the granola based crumble featuring pumpkin seeds, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cardamon. To it Chef Daniel added in a good amount honey, and a little bit of sugar with canola oil. The goal is for it to be sticky before popping it in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The berry compote was mix of blackberry, cherry, and strawberries. More sugar is added to make it a proper dessert. It is finished with lemon juice, and cook down at a low heat for 20 minutes. And lastly a splash of vanilla extract goes into the mix, after the temperature is turned off.

In order to get the camomile syrup, you start by steeping tea bags into water and cooking it.

And for the meringue you remove yolk from egg whites. And the whites get whipped in a blender so they won’t fluff up. More sugar is added again, as well as cream of tartar, to help keep things nice and stiff; so that your meringue does not flop out in the oven. It is baked in the oven at 200 degrees, until it is nice and crispy.

The coconut foam uses a higher fat concentration of coconut milk, mixed with icing sugar. It is piped on to the plate using a foam gun.

Surprisingly the dessert wasn’t too sweet, I found our dessert wine sweeter. The cardomon notes gave the plate a fall feel, the camomile a nice floral essence, and the juicy berries offered a nice contrast to the crispy and chewy meringue curl it was scooped out over.

In conclusion, a great event and a fun way to add a little flare to dinner. I learned a few kitchen tricks and was fully entertained throughout the entire meal. And I honestly think it all tasted better because I witnessed its journey to completion, and respected the time and effort that it took to get it on my plate. For all the food enthusiasts, I highly recommend looking into attending another such class next year. Start planning now by visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

Top Value Wines Seminar, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend I was taking in my very first “Cornucopia”. The two week long food and drink festival hosted in Whistler. It gathers industry professionals and fans together through specialty dinners, parties, cooking demonstrations, and seminars. And in this post we were taking in the latter.

Out of all the possible wine seminars, I was most interested in this one: “Top Value Wines”. This was not just a class on one specific type of grape, or wines from merely one region. This was a collection of information, covering several different types of wine, from all over the world. Information that I could take and apply in my every day life.

I typically visit my local liquor store looking for a bottle; but often don’t know what to get, so simply hope a label compels me. There are so many different types of wine, and we all can’t be sommeliers. Picking one can be overwhelming, especially if it is to be shared with others who may judge you on your selection. Or maybe you don’t want to spend more than $20 on your purchase, because you think, “it’s just for me”. Therefore, I was looking forward to taking in this workshop, to have it help remove future doubt in my wine selection. And now, thanks to this wine seminar? I have a list of what to reach for during my next liquor store visit. So continue reading to see 12 wines worth trying, that won’t break the bank.

The seminar was set up like a lecture room with rows of tables, an overhead projector, and a panel of speakers leading the class. Our three hosts were the ones to choose the 12 wines we would be tasting. And as we did, they would share why they selected this top value wine, plus what they liked about it. Rachel is the owner of “VV tapas”, a new wine bar in East Vancouver. Tyler runs the “Village Taphouse” liquor store in West Vancouver. And Daenna writes for 4 wine magazines all throughout Canada, where she is better known as the “Wine Diva”.

Everything was pre-poured and placed in order on a speciality place mat. Water was self serve at the back of the room, a larger plastic cup gave you the opportunity to taste and spit, and a packet of saltines offered a way to cleanse your palette in between.

The seminar began by explaining value. Just because a bottle is inexpensive, it doesn’t make it worse off than something that costs double that. “Value” was described as something worth more to you than what you would expect to pay for it. We then went one by one through each glass, essentially going through a whole case of wine.

 

First was the “Rivera ‘Marese’ Bombino Castro del Monte D.O.C.” This is a lesser known wine, hailing from a more obscure area, at the “heel of the boot of Italy”. This white is made in a stainless steel vessel, to ensure nothing takes away from the grapes. It is a creamy, full bodied wine with tropical notes. And best enjoyed frosty cold. It isn’t widely distributed, but it is available in 27 stores across the province, that offers it at $22 a bottle.

The “Seven Terraces Sauvignon Blanc” is $18 at any BC liquor store. Described as a “text book” Sauvignon from New Zealand, it is tangy with a crisp finish; and also a little dry yet refreshing. It is available year round with green apple and peach flavours, ideal as a “hot tub wine”.

The “2018 Synchromesh Reisling” is from our own back yard: Naramata and Okanagan Falls. It is available at privately owned liquor stores for $23, but for the best deals, it is recommended that go right to the source. The same can be said for any BC wine, the best prices are right from the winery itself. As for how it drinks, this eas a balanced blend with plenty of acidity, thanks to its natural fermentation. Our hosts highly recommended it with Asian cuisine like Thai food and with a variety of curries. It is also just as good with breakfast because it pairs well with bacon. A great all around white, with a lower alcohol content at 9%.

Then for the rest of our tasters we went red, starting with the “2018 Santa Carolina Pinot Noir Réservé” from Leyda Chile. Available for $14 a bottle at any BC liquor store, this was the best deal out of all the glasses. It comes from a newer region, just off the Pacific Ocean; hilly with a cool climate. This Pinot Noir with its savoury character pairs well with rich earthier foods like risotto, mushrooms, and Wellington.

The “2017 Humberto Canale Estate Noir” is from Patagonia, the very south of Argentina. Also described as the “end of the earth” with barren terrain. The dessert’s cooler nights and higher altitude is great for preserving the acidity of their wine. At $20 a bottle from private liquor stores, you get good “bang for your buck” here.

Next we switched the order and went to glass #9, the “2016 Lupi Reali Montepulciano d’Abruzzo” from Italy. A medium, light bodied wine that sold for $19 a bottle, at private liquor stores. Made from certified organic grapes, it doesn’t have a lot of mechanical bitterness to it, thanks to how it is produced. It is a great acidic wine with plenty of freshness; and good tannins making it a great choice to pair with sausage. It is also the bottle our experts recommended to bring to a party, when you don’t know what they like.

We then went back to our placemat order with glass #6, the “2018 Gran Passione Rosso” from Veneto, Italy. The grapes are left on the vine and dehydrated slowly. The farmers wait for them to shrivel up and loose half their weight before picking them, and making wine with them in oak barrels. The result, a more intense wine at 14% alcohol, with only a tiny amount of residual sugar. You get flavours of oak spice, vanilla, plum and raisins. This is available at privately owned liquor stores for $16 a bottle.

Glass #7 was the “2017 Boraso Garnacha” from Spain. A fruit wine with a “strawberry twizzler” character, a younger wine with no oak contact. At $15 a bottle at any BCL, our hosts joked that this was the perfect wine to crack open when you either don’t want to commit to finishing it, or you have to share with someone else.

The “2017 Protea Cabernet Sauvignon” is from Western Cape South Africa and runs at $15 at BCL. It hits all the classic notes with its time in oak barrels, followed by a year in stainless steel. It is a balanced wine that you can enjoy right as you open the bottle. Peppery with some cassis fruit.

The “2017 La Stella Fortissimo” from the Okanagan Valley was the most expensive bottle of our tasting. $35+ at the winery or private liquor store. It is a blend that is mostly merlot. Another approachable wine that you don’t need to decanter, although letting it rest doesn’t do it any harm either. It pairs well with meat, and for the vegetarians grilled eggplant and bean dishes. It also has enough acidity for tomato sauce.

The “2017 Famille Quiot Les Combes d’Arnevels Ventoux” from Rhone, France is $21+ at private liquor stores. It is a classic Southern Rhone blend with a mix of varietals. The wine has good minerality with flavour of dark fruits, leather and spice.

And glass #12 was the $20 “2016 Gerard Bertrand Terroirs Corbieres” from Languedoc, France. This was a full bodied blend with mostly Syrah.

Here, I wish I took better notes. Although having finished 12, 2oz glasses without using my spit cup, and only nibbling on two salted crackers; I wasn’t as alert or as thorough as I was at the beginning of our seminar.

In conclusion, I am very happy with this workshop. I have discovered 12 great bottles to reach for and impress others with, the next time I am in need of wine. And at these prices I can get a couple to share or one for me and another to gift.

For more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

Scandinave Spa Bubble Bath, Cornucopia 2019

This weekend my girl friend and I were in Whistler, here to celebrate her birthday, as well as attend “Cornucopia” for the very first time. “Cornucopia” is Whistler’s fall food and drink festival. Combining the two made the weekend all the more fun, and topping it with a spa experience at Scandinave spa was the cherry on top.

“Scandinave Spa” was hosting a “Bubble bath”, and we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be drinking bubbles when being surrounded by them. Although you can’t actually bring your drink to the pools (for safety reasons). However, the ability to visit the infamous spa at night was an experience in itself. But this was a party with guests lounging about the foyer in robes, sipping on unlimited bubbles, snacking on canapés, and bopping along to the jazzy sounds of @lovejennamae singing and playing guitar live.

I know you aren’t supposed to go into the water until 15 minutes after you have eaten, but who can resist this pairing? This it is the stuff goals are made off. The event was a self directed experience, you mixed and mingled either outdoors in the pools or by the fire pits, or indoors at the bar and by the fireplace. There was plenty to do in either arenas, with the ability to socialize. During regular spa sessions there is no talking allowed, tonight guests were more loud and rowdy with the drinks.

The ticket price included access to their exclusive hydrotherapy bath, towels, and robe rentals. At the pools, you are able to carry out your usual spa routine. Following the intermittent hot and cool soaks, plus rest. This is recommend for its traditional Scandinavian healing properties. Here you could gather by the roaring fire pits, swing on one of their hammocks, or get a chill from the stone benches and/or lounge chairs. For something more warmer, there was plenty to lie on indoors, in one of the solariums.

At this temperature and time of day it is easy to identify which are the hot or cold pools. Smokey and mysterious these hot pools was where we flocked to.

Indoors, attendees enjoyed glasses of bubbles from “Haywire Winery”. They were onsite pouring their traditional method sparkling wine, “The Bub” and their “2013 Vintage Bub”. The “Bub” is a bottle fermented and aged using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Grapes grown on cool vineyard sites in Oliver and Summerland. The result, a fresh warming wine with a nice crisp green apple finish. And the “Vintage Bub” was crowned the Winner of Cornucopia 2019’s top bubble award. You were able to try both and enjoy as many refills of either as your heart desired, (just done with moderation and the sake of health and self in mind.)

And as you sipped, you were able to sample from a collection of savoury and sweet canapés that travelled the room. The following were prepared by the “Collective Kitchen” catering team. Everything was delicious. It kept us well fed, yet refreshing and light. Perfect for the pressure to look as thin as possible in your bathing suit. That and it all paired well with our two wine options above.

A curry cashew cream with dukkah. “Dukkah” is combination of nuts, seeds, and ground spices. Together with the cream this morsel was like a little chip, already topped with dip.

The shrimp with salsa verde was a group favourite. Served on a skewer and drizzled with zesty and tangy salsa for an extra refreshing flavour profile.

A slice of cucumber is used as a base for mango salsa, jade radish, and sun choke chips. Another bright bite full of textures to chew through.

I liked the crab with mango cucumber salsa on a potato terrine, and its heartier bite with a caramelized finish.

The Kushi oysters with its persimmon minuet were delicious and memorable.

I also enjoyed the bacon and blue cheese biscuit with avaocado cream and heirloom tomato and radish. The distinct flavour of tangy blue cheese coupled with a sweet salty bacon was noteworthy.

But my favourite canapé was the albacore tuna with leeks on a nori, sesame and squid cracker. Absolutely delicious.

And for dessert, a quarter of a lime tart with huckle berry jam and blackberry garnish was passed around. Luscious and creamy, tangy with citrus and dark berries; it made for a great palate refresher.

So here, we took our time, eating and sipping, all while listening to the live musical stylings of acoustic singer, Jennamae Webb. She took pop hits and top 40’s songs and spun them in her own bluesy soulful sound. She even took on our suggestion/request of hip hop songs done in the same fashion.

In short, this was a whole new way to experience the spa. And I would highly anticipate going back again next year, whist recommending it to everyone else, and anyone already a fan of the property. Scandinave at night, retooled as a pj party with adult beverages was a hit!

But for more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

“The Corridor” with Yew + Sidecut, Cornucopia 2019

We were here for the first weekend of Cornucopia 2019, Whistler’s fall food and drink festival. This is my first time attending the illustrious event. With two week long seminars, tastings, and dinners to attend, it is hard to choose your favourite.

We started the weekend off with a fantastic dinner at the “Four Season Whistler’s” restaurant, “Sidecut”. The restaurant featured several large wooden stumps refurbished into furniture. It gave it a polished rustic feel, alongside the wood floors and stone pillars. We grabbed a seat on one of their high top tables in the lounge. We were early so took the time to take in the bar’s offerings by way of a couple of their custom cocktails. Your drink options are attractively displayed on their elegant menu. High resolution photos of beverages and glasses that told a story through ingredients and presentation; arranged by geographic area.

My guest went “Northeast” for the “Fujisan Highball”. Jonnie Walker Black, yuzu and green apple, Cascade celery bitters, balsam fir and soda. Its glass is decorated with pine and a feather held in place with twine. Inspired by Japan’s flora landscape, the refreshing cocktail is finished with two spurts of pine scent. And with it came the ability to breathe in the drink before tasting it.

I went Southeast with the “Peak me up”, inspired by South Africa’s soil and its ability to grow quality coffee, bananas, and spices. The very crops that found its way into this cocktail, with great depth. Spiced Bulleit bourbon, artichoke amaro and banana, coconut flowers, cold brew Tanzanian coffee, and Moondog Latin bitters. Great for coffee lovers with the smooth bourbon in tow. Spiced with warmth and finished off with a beautifully sweet caramelized banana slice. So easy and enjoyable to drink, that it felt more like dessert.

We followed both up with a shot of their house gin. Made unique with its blue hue derived from butterfly pea flower. Distilled exclusively for the “Four Seasons Whistler’s”, by “Okanagan Spirits”. An easy drinking gin that went from blue to purple with the addition of tonic water or a squeeze of citrus.

When time, we transitioned to a reception in the dining room. Where, we joined all the other diners here for dinner. We greeted one another and spoke to the excitement of things to come. Clinking glasses of “Fort Berens” sparking rose. For each course to come, the perfect bottle of “Fort Berens” wine came with it.

When time, we all took out seats. Nothing is assigned so it’s first come first served. But those who found their way to the centre of the room were treated to a front row view of our hosts of the night. We were introduced to the Chefs of “Yew” and “Sidecut”, each explaining what course they were bringing to this dinner. Executive Chef Eren Guryel from “SIDECUT Modern Steak + Bar”, and Restaurant Chef Evan Morgan from “YEW seafood + bar”. This would be last collaboration between the two properties, seeing as the Vancouver location will be closing down next year.

Named “The Corridor”, the menu was a journey up the Sea to Sky Corridor (the very route that we took to get us to Whistler today); from Vancouver to Lillooet. And it promised to “take you through 163.13kms of taste”.

We began with a Kusshi Oyster from the oceans around BC, topped with Northern Divine Caviar, as our amuse bouche. A single, perfectly shucked raw oyster sitting of a bed of seaweed, smoky from liquid nitrogen. Quite the presentation, it is just a shame that the smoke was lost under the dim lights.

To pair with it we enjoyed the “Fort Berens” Reserve Riesling 2018. This was a dry white with an beautiful intensity. During its production, the temperature is dropped low, giving it a distinct petroleum nose.

For our next course came another Réservé Riesling. The 2017 vintage was very different due to the warmer weather that year, and the little crop that they yielded. The grapes were very ripe, so the wine turned out with much intensity and an increased sweetness.

Our second course was a single “Dungeness Crab Raviolo”, so good that it left you wanting more with its celeriac cream and Golden Ears Neufchatel. A firm round of stuffed pasta, sitting in a sauce that ate like a creamy chowder. Beautifully done.

Our next glass was a Chardonnay Réservé, that they called “White gold”. 100% of it was made in oak barrels through natural fermentation, and not by artificial yeast. The result is oaky with a rich nose, but not in an overwhelming way.

The Chardonnay elevated the “Lightly Smoked BC Salmon”, which brought our food journey to Howe Sound. An enticing plate with White Dashi, Charred Cucumber, Puffed Grains, Ginger Oil, and Winter Greens. It was a deliciously caramelized sashimi-like salmon with a spicy mayo cream and crispy bites to round out the mouth feel.

Next in our glass was the “Fort Berens Red Gold 2014”, the name, a nod to Lillooet and its connection to gold rush. It is made by drying grapes for weeks in a drying shed, where it lose 30% of the moisture, and it begins to slowly ferment. A medium bodied red, perfect with the steak it was paired with.

Taking us to Pemberton/Cache Creek was our fourth course: “Organic Grass Fed Beef Striploin” served with Pemberton potatoes, and a Cabernet Franc Jus. It was a perfectly cooked, medium rare steak. Juicy and lean with a little bit of fat at either ends. The vegetables with it were hearty and buttery, ideal in rounding out the plate.

Our last glass brought us back to white. The “Light Harvest Riesling” had great acidity, well balanced with sweetness. Its honey notes were akin to our final course: a honey themed dessert.

A “Honey tart” with Honey cremeux, peach jam, pistachio-honey financier, chai crust, peach-Hydromel sorbet, and bee Honey tuile. This marked the end of our Corridor journey at Lillooet. Each element of the dessert featured honey from Lillooet, a milder honey that wasn’t too sweet. This was a fresh dessert with gingerbread-like spices and soften peach. It was a well crafted, and engaging to pick though. I especially enjoyed pulling the almond wings from the candy bees.

Our meal took us from “ocean to alpine” and was immensely well executed. Diner’s definitely got their money’s worth from this. Nothing disappointed and I was sad to see it end.

The experience had me wanting to return to taste from their regular menu. And making plans to do so sooner because “Sidecut” will be introducing their winter menu the first week of December, and it will include a savoury apes ski high tea tower. They worked with an local artists to build a special display to showcase the likes of beef sliders and truffle fries, anything comforting you’d want after a great afternoon of skiing. And all well paired with an outlandishly decked out Caesar.

Worth also noting is the hotel property’s court yard. Here, you can gather around their roaring fire pit and toast some marshmallows on sticks. All while make-believing that you are camping with their own camper in tow.

Both only added to my desire to come back to whistler soon, and next time stay at the “Four Seasons”. And apparently if you do so in one of their residents suites, you have the option of ordering their crockpot dinner. You choose between beef, lamb, or chicken which includes all the accompanying vegetables. You simply order it on the hotel’s app, and it will be waiting for you in your suite. The rich smells of a slow cooking stew greeting you, and offering you a unique, homely touch.

In short this was a great event, one that I would recommend, along with a visit, if not stay at “Four Seasons”. But for more on Cornucopia, and how you can attend next year’s occasion, visit the link below. https://whistlercornucopia.com/

For the vlog version of this event and the recap of our weekend drinking, check out my latest video, now upon my YouTube Channel: MaggiMei.

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